A little bit of history Florence is not as well-known as Bologna for pen production, at least on these shores, but Pineider have been in the game for a century or two. The venerable Florentine brand has, since 1774, supplied popes, princes and heads of state with paper and envelopes for correspondence, as well as the luxury leather cases to carry such materials. Earlier this century the brand went through some torrid times under a new owner, which did not really understand the stationery and related products market, and it nearly closed completely. However, in 2017 new investment and leadership from the Rovagnati family saved the business and sparked new life into Pineider. They have other, perhaps slightly more modestly-styled fountain pens too, but their UK distributor was keen to go straight for the dandy of the bunch – and as you can see, they delivered in full.
How it looks OK, you’d have to squint pretty hard to mistake it for an actual bee, but you can see what they mean. The layers of gold and blue resin look organic in origin, and they’re polished to perfection. You may, quite reasonably, spend a day or two staring at the Arco Bee while it does its big glinting iridescence shtick before even attempting to write with it! The 10mm cap also bears the company logo and the legend: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.
How it feels You will want to try writing with it, though, as soon as you see that nib. More on that in a moment. Out of the box, the pen looks and feels good in the hand; comfortable and ergonomic with no threads to irritate or distract the fingers. Measurement and comparison-wise the “Arco” Blue Bee has the classic medium-sized fountain pen dimensions: its length of 142mm and width of 12.7 mm and mm in the hand, so it measures up to pen reviewers’ typical Lamy Safari or Al-Star yardstick. It is quite a light pen: 32g in total, 16g uncapped. So in the hand this is a surprisingly light pen: robust, but not too hefty to wield lightly. ‘Just as well…
How it fills There’s a proper, fully-fledged piston here – no cut-price captured converter nonsense. Pineider do it properly, and even throw a usable travelling inkwell into the package. The zoetrope ink window works, too. This really is intended for use, not just ornament. One of our reviewers wrote an eight-page letter (on A5 90 gsm vellum) without making much, if any, impression on the ink capacity and found it a pleasure to write with the pen for sustained periods.
Crucially, how it writes… Like nothing else, honestly. This is the softest nib many of us can remember encountering! Perhaps because the tip on our test pen started at M, the line variation was actually quite modest, so this might not be a flex nib in the standard sense, but it’s certainly the very opposite of stiff. It’s for writing steadily with, while enjoying your evening off with some Slow Food, perhaps even in a Slow City. You get the picture; Italians know how to live, and it extends to stationery.
Some of our reviewers found that the nib appeared to perform better with less wet inks, and one detected some elements of ‘baby’s bottom’ and a sweet spot in the nib. With wetter inks the nib gushed. The pen’s documentation advises a lighter touch with the nib and its medium nib certainly did not need much pressure to leave a luxuriously wet line on standard Rhodia and Clairefontaine papers. Most loved the nib. A number of us used a drier indigo ink (Taccia Hokusai Koiai Blue) and it delivered a consistently wet flow. Those that played to the nib’s strengths found it wrote wet and smooth, and that it merited investing time to get familiar with.
Pen! What is it good for? It would just be cruel to inflict an office environment on this fontoplumistic starlet. Take it your boudoir, your scriptorium in a secluded castle, to the best al fresco ristorante table you can find – but not, purlease, to work. *Shudders*
VFM Oh golly, this isn’t cheap. Retailing at £680, few of us felt we could justify the price easily. But then again, two of the reviewers now own one, so…
The only way is ethics This is made by proper artisans, and it shows. We have no qualms.
If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… The Full Metal Jacket, one of Pineider’s slightly more affordable pens, is based upon essentially the same design – albeit with less gaudy materials.
Our overall recommendation If it floats your boat and you can afford it, go for it. Unlike some bling, this also serves a genuine functional purpose; it’s lovely to write with.
Where to get hold of one Bespoke fountain pen emporia of your acquaintance. It’s a limited edition, so Boolean logic is your friend!
This meta-review references:
- Scribble Monboddo’s review
- Penchantink’s review
- Mick’s purgatorial penmanship
- Dapprman’s dissection
- Dr. Jim’s diagnosis
- Joe’s sublimely subtle study
Thanks to Pineider’s wholesaler in the UK for lending us this remarkable pen.